The longest shot in a field of six, 18-1 Bullsbay pulled a shocking upset in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) Aug. 8 at Saratoga, splitting horses on the turn and pulling away for a 1 1/2-length score under Jeremy Rose.
It was the first grade I win for the 5-year-old son of Tiznow, who entered the 1 1/8-mile race off a 10th place finish in the July 11 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I). The victory denied Commentator a record-tying third Whitney win. Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, Commentator sprinted to an early lead but began tiring nearing the eighth-pole and had to settle for third under John Velazquez.
Like he did in his Whitney triumphs in 2005 and 2008, Commentator wasted little time going to the front. But the early fractions were wicked, as the 8-year-old posted splits of :23.49,:46.38, and 1:10.11. Tizway and Smooth Air, who was surprisingly sent off as the slight favorite, stalked the leader.
Bullsbay raced in fourth while saving ground on the first turn, made a strong bid approaching the three-eighths pole and rolled right by Commentator as they came off the turn. The bay horse had a length advantage at the top of the stretch and began inching clear. Macho Again, coming off a win in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs when Bullsbay finished fourth, was closing well from the middle of the track, but it was not enough to get to the winner.
“I told the pony boy in the post parade, I’m the livest 16-1 shot I’ve been in a long time,” Rose said. “And he was laughing. I said ‘trust me, this horse has beat the favorite before, today’s my horse’s day, if he fires’. And he fired.
“I made the lead way too early, but I couldn’t help it. He was just cutting through traffic way too easy. I didn’t want to go that early, but I had to go with the horse.”
Bullsbay trainer Graham Motion earned his first grade I win on dirt.
“It’s tough to beat a horse like Commentator,” he said. “This horse is underrated. Jeremy made the lead too early. He’s that good. He beat Macho Again (in the grade III Alysheba May 1 at Churchill) and Macho Again came back to beat him (in the June 13 Stephen Foster). It’s such a thrill to win this race, especially for a turf trainer.”
Commentator, trying to join Kelso and Discovery as the only three-time Whitney winners, was out-finished by 1 1/2 lengths by runner-up Macho Again.
“He gave it everything he had,” Commentator trainer Nick Zito said. “I wish we could have done things a little differently leading up to the race. We were playing catch up. He was coming off two months off after a New York-bred race.
“I’m proud of him. It was not bad, not bad at all. Father Time catches up to everyone. He tried; he gave it everything he had.”
Bullsbay, a $130,000 Keeneland yearling sale purchase in 2005, is owned by Mitchell Ranch. He was bred in Kentucky by Brad Anderson and is out of the Lord Carson mare The Hess Express. This was the horse’s seventh win from 18 lifetime starts. He has now earned $810,943.
The winner, who earned a berth into the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 7 at Santa Anita, paid $39.60, $12, and $5.90. The exacta (3-4) returned $179.50, and the trifecta (3-4-7) was $554.